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Amazon cannot shrug off accountability for taking down Khyanikaa, says filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya

Khyanikaa: The Lost Idea was the first Odia film to be released on Amazon Prime on 6 June, only to be removed on the night of 8 June without notice.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

When filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya’s feature film Khyanikaa: The Lost Idea was released on Amazon Prime Video on 6 June 2020, it was a moment of pride for the filmmaker as it was the only Odia film to have been released on a major OTT platform.

The release also became a beacon of hope for independent filmmakers across the country, who could now think of their films finding a place on an online platform and becoming accessible to audiences.

Khyanikaa: The Lost idea was selected for the Indian Panorama at the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa in 2017 and has also been screened at film festivals across the world.

However, after the initial celebrations, things went south quickly as the film's team found that Khyanikaa had been taken down from the platform on the night of 8 June, without intimation.

Speaking to Cinestaan.com, Bhattacharyya expressed his frustration: “It has been a long fight. Ten days we have tried to resolve the matter internally, we have escalated the matter, we have tried all possible ways before going public.”

The filmmaker said, “This was the only Odia film on a major OTT platform, so of course this was celebrated, especially in Odisha, because it opened new doors for all languages that are not mass producers of films.

The film ran on Amazon Prime for about three days, then on 8 June it was brought down. "We heard from our distributor that they got a verbal communication that the film has to be taken down immediately and they will let us know," the writer-cinematographer-director said. "They also told us it was taken down because it was an Odia film, because of the language."

The filmmaker said he wanted to hear the actual reason from Amazon Prime Video before going public. "So for several days we have been trying to reach Amazon," he said. "The initial seven days or so, they never responded. Then we tried through other sources. Ultimately, we got the contact and my producer Swastik Choudhury spoke to them. I also got an e-mail saying it was taken down because right now Amazon can only support nine languages. They have been streaming films in nine languages and they have not launched a section for Odia cinema yet. That was their excuse.”

However, this seemed strange to Bhattacharyya as the language would have been known to the streaming service beforehand. “They may also say we did not choose the film, the distributor chose it, but the distributor is an Amazon-authorized partner and after the distributor publishes a film it goes for a check for a few days before it is made live. Once it is released on Amazon Prime, how can Amazon shrug off accountability? And their customer care denies this. They say we have no language restrictions and the producer must have pulled the film down!”

In the three days that the film was available on the platform, Bhattacharyya claimed that hundreds watched it and there are several posts and reviews discussing it. 

“After several conversations, we escalated the matter and got no resolution," he said. "Finally, last night we decided to go to the press. I believe it is only through public support that we can somehow get this film back and amend this policy [of language restriction], if at all it exists."

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